|Portrayed by||Hannah Waterman|
17 February 2000
30 April 2004
|Introduced by||John Yorke|
Laura Beale (also Dunn) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Hannah Waterman. The character first appears as a nanny hired by Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) to care for his children, and later marries him. Laura Beale was killed during a fight with Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), a departure that was listed as one of EastEnders' best exits by Virgin Media.
This was Waterman's second role in the soap, having appeared in 1997 as an HIV patient.
Laura is employed by local businessman Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) as a nanny for his children, Peter (Joseph Shade), Lucy (Casey Anne Rothery) and Steven Beale (Edward Savage). She becomes attracted to Ian but her attempts to get closer to him are unnoticed. Laura is protective of Ian and eventually Ian starts to see her as loyal and faithful but uses her for sex. Eventually, Laura demands more commitment but he refuses so Laura calls off their arrangement and kisses Garry Hobbs (Ricky Groves). Ian is furious when he finds out, leading to Laura's resignation, but before she leaves, Ian is declared bankrupt so Laura agrees to stay and help him look after the children, and they become a couple. Laura tries to raise money to buy the fish and chip shop so they can run it together, secretly borrowing money from his former wife, Mel Owen (Tamzin Outhwaite). Ian proposes marriage to Laura but her wealthy father opposes their relationship because of Ian's bankruptcy. They get married but Laura discovers that Ian knows about an inheritance she received and wonders if Ian only wants her money. Ian convinces her this is not true.
Laura is jealous when Ian goes into business with Mel. She catches them kissing and moves out, but Ian wins her round again. When Mel is arrested for money laundering and drug dealing (she was set up by her husband, Steve Owen (Martin Kemp), she signs her business over to Laura, worried about them being seized by the authorities but Laura refuses to give them back. Mel is arrested, and when released on bail, informs Ian of Laura's spiteful deed, and tells Laura that she was Ian's first choice. Laura delights in belittling Ian and decides she wants a baby. Ian refuses and Laura is heartbroken when she discovers Ian has been paying Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) to sleep with him. Janine goes to Laura's house because she feels guilty; they argue and Laura throws a pan of boiling milk at Janine, putting her in hospital and causing a feud between them. Laura reconciles with Ian on the promise that they will have a baby, but he has a secret vasectomy. Laura gets pregnant and, believing that he cannot be the father, Ian cons her into signing her share of the businesses over to him and throws her out. Laura tells Garry he is the father, following a drunken night together. Garry's wife Lynne Hobbs (Elaine Lordan) throws him out so they move into a bedsit together. Laura gives birth to Bobby Beale (Kevin Curran), but he needs a blood transfusion and Laura learns that Garry is not Bobby's father but, given Ian's lack of interest and wanting her son to have a father, Laura doesn't tell Garry. Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) appoints Laura as the manager of the café Ian used to own and she names it "Laura's", but Phil's sister, Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), sells the café to Ian and he sacks Laura.
Laura's feud with Janine continues after Laura flies into a rage at Janine outside the Vic but is pushed over, humiliated she just cries, Janine then stops Laura getting a job by badmouthing her and Laura ruins Janine's business venture, this leads Janine confronting Laura who pushes her too far, another fight breaks out in which Laura's quickly overwhelmed pinned against the wall and strangled by Janine, terrified Laura gasps for breath while Janine taunts her before leaving. An emotional Laura then decides to tell Ian he is Bobby's father but he shuns her. She writes him a letter but moments later, Ian visits her flat as he feels guilty. In her haste to answer the door, she runs down the stairs and trips on a toy, breaking her neck as she falls. She is found dead by Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement). Janine is charged with murdering Laura but is cleared when Pat is eventually persuaded to give Janine an alibi. She also finds Laura's letter to Ian and blood tests confirm Ian is Bobby's father. He feels guilty for the way he treated Laura and takes custody of Bobby.
On 6 January 2000 it was announced Waterman would be joining EastEnders as Laura Dunn, a nanny hired by Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) to care for his children. It was also reported "romance could be on the cards" for Laura and Ian. Waterman previously appeared in EastEnders in 1997 as an HIV patient. Shortly after she joined the show, Waterman began to be recognised by members of the public and she commented "It can be quite intimidating when people stare at me in the street, so I've resorted to doing what I never dreamed of before - wearing a baseball cap to go shopping. It's interesting being on the show, especially with dad being a Cockney. And I'd love to work with him one day. So far, I've avoided it in case I was accused of using his name to get on, but now we joke about working together on EastEnders. I can just picture him behind the bar at the Queen Vic!"
Relationship with Ian
Waterman said there were perks to playing a couple at war in TV soaps." "After a day of nagging Adam and moaning about just about everything, I feel fantastic by the time I get home," she laughs. "If Laura's having a bad day that usually means I finish off the day in a great mood. It's a very cathartic experience being a misery-guts for a living." She continues: "I don't know if she'll forgive him but I doubt she'll throw Ian out. Laura has shifted from being this naive and soft person into a much harder and more manipulative character. That's what happens when you live with Ian Beale for too long." Talking about how Laura manipulated Ian, Waterman commented: "I wouldn't be surprised if she uses Ian's guilt to get her way," she says. "She desperately wants a baby. Now she may be in a position to demand she gets her way. Laura's love for Ian has been tested lately. Her love for him is far less than her desire to have a baby and that's going to be a problem for Ian."
Departure and death
On 25 February 2004 it was announced announced Waterman was to leave EastEnders, and her character killed off during a fight with Janine Butcher. A spokeswoman for the show said Laura's exit would spark "a succession of devastating events throughout Walford." Waterman revealed she was glad Laura was going to be killed off and that she has to move on from EastEnders. She explained "These are my last scenes, but they're so dramatic. Though I've had a fabulous time, I've got to move on." Waterman also stated that she could not wait for Laura to be killed-off. She expressed that she wanted to do other work, particularly with her father, Dennis Waterman, saying "I've never worked with him before. And he's not unhappy I'm leaving. EastEnders has been a fantastic learning curve but I can't play that character any more."
Laura's departure was listed as one of EastEnders' best exits by Virgin Media. However, other critics described the character as a "loser" and "dreary", and that Ian and Laura were the "most miserable married couple in Albert Square".
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